Sunday, June 19, 2011

Post Production Stress Syndrome

When I got PPSS I thought I was the only one, but in talking with other filmmakers I've learned two things: First, it's common, and second, everyone thinks they are the only one.

A couple of days after we wrapped Jacks Or Better, I had to fly back east for a family matter. The shoot had gone great, thanks mostly to a well-rehearsed, disciplined cast and top notch department heads. Like many uber-indie productions, I, as writer/director, was the most inexperienced person on the set. My background was theatre, so I made sure the actors were honest moment-to-moment and kept my mouth shut about the film side except to constantly say, "I'm so glad Dave [my Director of Photography] and I are making the same movie."

So for the 12 days of shooting, I was calm.

A day after we wrapped I woke up in North Carolina in a panic. "What are we shooting?"

"I don't have a crew."

"I don't have any equipment."

"What scenes do I have to get in North Carolina?"

This went on for nearly a minute. Anyone who has experienced the "where am I and what am I doing here?" wake up moment knows that a minute is a long, long time. And it wasn't just once. The first night I woke up a couple of times like that. Over the next few days, panic became my morning routine.

Eventually, it passed of course, and I had seen enough TV psychiatrists to know what delayed stress was, so no harm done.

Flash forward a few years later and I'm acting in a student film. The director was a sweetheart, and cool as I remember myself being, though she faced insane challenges. Over the few days of the shoot, the weather had to be perfect, the actors were on horseback, and there was a period gun duel that had crazy-difficult coverage issues. She handled every bit of it without a problem and the days past without any major issues.

This sounded familiar to me, so I told her, "Don't be surprised if you have Post Production Stress Syndrome."

She laughed and said that wasn't like her. I told her my story, which she appreciated but didn't think it was a cause of concern.

A couple of days after we wrapped I got a call from her. Sure enough, she'd been waking up in a panic, freaking out, not knowing what was happening. She thanked me for the heads up and I thanked her for verifying that I wasn't the only one to go through this.

At the closing night party for this year's festival, I asked one of the 2-Step filmmakers – who was directing for the first time – if she had post production stress. She said yes and we shared stories.

So I'm not the only one. If you've had this, you're not either. If you're about to shoot, don't worry if you're calmer than you think you should be – your nerves will catch up to you and kick your ass as soon as they know you can handle it.

Thanks for reading.

No comments: